Gene Combs, MD

Northshore Medical Group - Glenbrook Family Care Center
2050 Pfingsten Rd
Suite 200
Glenview IL 60026
(847) 657-1820
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Gene Combs, MD

NorthShore Medical Group Residency Educator


  • Specialized training in family therapy including live supervision with Jay Haley and Cloe Madanes, two two-week residential workshops in Italy and several briefer supervisory experiences in this country with Luigi Boscolo and Gianfranco Cecchin, and three to five days of live case consultation with Michael White every year for eighteen years
  • 1972-75 Psychiatry Residency, Department of Psychiatry, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington, KY
  • 1972 M.D., University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington, KY
  • 1968 B.S., Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

Research Interests

Dr. Combs has been involved for the last quarter-century in the development of Narrative Therapy as a distinct approach to individual therapy, family therapy, and community work. Narrative therapy draws on Poststructuralism and related ideas in the social sciences to look at the problems and possibilities of individuals within their wider cultural, economic, and historical contexts. In his current day-to-day work, Dr. Combs is developing ways to help primary care physicians become more skilled at understanding and working with the particular hopes and fears of the people who consult with them.

Selected Publications

  • Combs G & Freedman J. (2012) Narrative, Poststructuralism, and Social Justice: Current Practices in Narrative Therapy. The counseling Psychologist. 40(7)pp.1033-1060.
  • Freedman J & Combs G. (2009) Narrative Ideas for Consulting with Communities and Organizations: Ripples from the Gatherings. Family Process 48(3), September, pp.347-362.
  • Patrick G, Combs G & Gavagan T. (2009) Initiating antidepressant therapy? Try these two drugs first. Journal of Family Practice 58:365-369.
  • Freedman J & Combs G. (2009) Narrative Couple Therapy: In A. Gurman & N. Jacobson (eds.) Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy (revised edition). New York: Guilford.
  • Freedman J & Combs G. (2005) Gender and culture in the narrative approach to helping. In C.L. Rabin (ed.) Understanding gender and culture in the helping process: Practitioners' narratives from global perspectives. Belmont, CA: Thomas Wadsworth.
  • Combs G & Freedman J. (2004) A Poststructuralist approach to narrative work. In L.E. Angus & J. McLeod (eds.) The handbook of narrative and psychotherapy: Practice, theory, and research. London: Sage.
  • Freedman J & Combs G. (2004) Relational identity in narrative work with couples. In S. Madigan (ed.) Therapy from the Outside in. Vancouver: Yaletown Family Therapy.
  • Freedman J & Combs G. (2002) Narrative therapy with couples...and a whole lot more! Adelaide S. Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.
  • Freedman J & Combs G. (2002) Narrative Couple Therapy. In A. Gunman & N. Jacobson (eds.) Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy. New York: Guilford.
  • Combs G & Freedman J. (2002) Relationships not boundaries. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 23(3), 2002, pp.203-217.
  • Freedman J & Combs G. (2001) Facilitating a Narrative Culture in a School. Journal of Systemic Therapies 20(3), Fall 2001, pp.49-59.
  • Combs G. (2001) Foreword, in Nylund, D. Treating Huckleberry Finn: A narrative approach to working with kids diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Freedman J & Combs G. (2000) Therapy relationships that open up possibilities for us all. Dulwich Centre Journal (1 & 2), pp. 17-20.
  • Combs G & Freedman J. (2000) Narrative therapy with couples. In Dattilio, F.M. & Bevalicqua, L. (eds.), Comparative treatments for relationship dysfunction. New York: Springer.
  • Combs G & Freedman J. (1999) Developing relationships, performing identities. In Narrative therapy and community work: A conference collection. Adelaide, Australia Dulwich Centre Publications, pp.27-32.
  • Combs G & Freedman J. (1998) Telling and retellings. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 24(4), pp.405-408.
  • Combs G & Freedman J. (1998) Reflection on adoption. Gecko: A Journal of Deconstruction and Narrative Ideas in Therapeutic Practice, 3, pp.72-78.
  • Schneider M.F.(1998) A narrative dialogue: An interview with Jill Freedman and Gene Combs. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 54(4), Winter, pp.416-430.
  • Freedman J & Combs G. (1996) Narrative Therapy: The social construction of preferred realities. New York: Norton.
  • Freedman J & Combs G. (1996) Gender stories. Journal of Systemic Therapies 15(1), Spring pp.31-46.
  • Combs G & Freedman J. (1990) Symbol, Story, and Ceremony: using metaphor in individual and family therapy. New York: Norton.

Plenary Addresses

  • Reflections on What We Treasure in this Work (Keynote Address)
    Conversation-fest 2013, a conference of collaborative and narrative approaches to therapy
    Co-sponsored by the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre of Toronto, Canada and the Houston-Galveston Institute of Houston, Texas
    March 13-16, 2013, League City, Texas
  • Innovations in Narrative Therapy with Couples
    American Family Therapy Academy Annual Meeting
    June 2010, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Linking Lives through Shared Purposes: Narrative Approaches to Community Problems
    Social Work Day at the University of Kansas, School of Social Welfare
    April 2009, Lawrence, Kansas
  • Perhaps It's a Life
    International Narrative Therapy Symposium at the Church Conference Center
    February 2009, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
  • A Narrative Approach to Working with Couples
    Annual Illinois Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Conference
    March 2008, Glen Ellyn, Illinois
  • Implications of the Narrative Metaphor for Working with Partner Relationships
    Kenniscentrum voor Relatieproblematiek De Keerkring
    April 2006, Beilin, Holland
  • Community and the Performance of Meaning
    2nd Annual International Summer School of Narrative Practice
    November 2004, Dulwich Centre, Adelaide, Australia
  • Relationships and Ethics
    North American Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference
    August 2003, Evanston, IL
  • Conversations abut Ethics, Accountability, and Re0membering: What Really Matters in Our Practice (Opening Plenary)
    Australian Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference
    April 2002, Canberra, Australia
  • Helping People Live out Meaningful Stories of Their Relationship with Illness
    Family Stories: Meeting the Challenges of Chronic Illness, a conference organized by the Cancer Wellness Center
    April 2002, Northbrook, IL
  • A Narrative Approach to Therapy
    33rd Annual Southwestern School of Behavioral Health Studies
    July 2001, Tucson, AZ
  • Stories of Health: Narrative Therapy and Family Practice
    19th Forum for the Behavioral Sciences in Family Medicine Conference. "The Promise of Family Practice: It's All in the Relationship"
    October 1998, Chicago, IL

Recent Invited Presentations and Workshops

  • Linking Lives in Ways Large and Small
    90 Minute Workshop
    Winds of Change 5: Conversations on the Margins: Therapeutic Change, Social Change, Social Justice for Hinks-Dellcrest and Fail Appel Institute
    Ottawa, Canada
    June 15, 2012
  • Narrative and Identity:L How are we becoming other than who we've already been?
    1 day workshop
    Southern California Counseling Center
    Los Angeles, California
    January 8, 2011
  • Narrative Responses to Trauma
    5 day training
    Ibuka National association for Survivors of the Genocide
    Rwanda, Africa
    November 2010
  • Narrative Therapy with Couples and Relationships
    2 hour Workshop
    Dulwich Centre, Toronto, Canada
    July 2010
  • Initiative and agency:Narrative Therapy and Acts of Change
    2 hour Workshop
    Dulwich Centre, Toronto, Canada
    July 2010
  • Narrative and Identity
    2 day Workshop
    Grupo Campos Eliseos, Mexico City, Mexico
    February 2010
  • Narrative Work in Communities and Organizations
    Culture and Mental Health: Emerging Trends in Psychotherapy and Social Programs (International and Cuban Approaches) Conference for the World Psychiatric Association
    International Conference Center, Havana, Cuba
    February 2009


  • Honorary Associate
    The Taos Institute, since 2010
  • American Family Therapy Academy Award for Innovative Contribution to Family Therapy
    (with Jill Freedman), 2009
  • Award of Outstanding Contributions and Leadership to the Association
    American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), 2004
  • Award for Outstanding Teaching
    Family Practice Program, Cook County-Loyola-Provident Hospitals, 2003
  • Main Selection, Behavioral Science Book Service
    Freedman J & Combs G (1996) Narrative Therapy: The Social Constructions of preferred realities. New York: Norton
  • Main Selection, Behavioral Science Book Service
    Combs G & Freedman J. (1990) Symbol, Story, and Ceremony: Using metaphor in individual and family therapy. New York: Norton
  • Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Teaching of Medical Students
    University of Kentucky College of Medicine, 1979

Service to the Profession

  • Member, editorial review board, Family Process
  • Member, editorial review board, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy
  • Editor, AFTA Update, the newsletter of the American Family Therapy Academy
  • Director, American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) Board of Directors
  • Commissioner, Commission on Accreditation in Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE)
  • Executive Director, Committee to Organized the North American Conference of Narrative Therapy and Community Work
    Norris Center, Northwestern University, August 2003
  • Member, editorial review board, American Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Member, International Advisory Group, International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work
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